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The Educatorssummary of radio 4 series

Excellent series, presenting eight very different views on education by


leading thinkers and practitioners. What would be useful is to see the
extend to which these views and assertions are challenged or tested.
What follows is largely in note form, just to highlight key ideas.
Sir Ken Robinson-schools are a barrier to creativity, as he has argued on
TED in 2006. Creativity is just as important as literacy. Curriculum favours
a particular type of intelligence. He acknowledges the economic, social
and cultural aspects of education, but emphasises the personal aspect,
something he feels is missing. He discusses how education is a strategic
issue for government, which had led to testing that leads to
standardisation and international comparisons, eg PISA, an (unintended)
consequence that is catastrophic in his view. He argues for forms of
education that address the differences in children. Organisational culture
of schools is based on the outmoded industrial and academic demands if
the 20th C. Schools should involve more creative work, cross-age working,
less homework, fewer tests. Too much emphasis on mastering the basics.
Creative development is a conversation between ambition and ability.

John Hattie, Professor of Education:- Conducted massive research


into what makes a difference: a meta-analysis-collating 60 000 studies
over the last 4 decades. He asked what makes a difference, what matters
in teaching. He discusses proxy data which hides the key fact that
teachers make the difference. Reducing class size enhances achievement
but only by a small amount because teachers dont change how they
teach according to class size. The school type is less important than
teachers. Parents choose schools, not teachers. Most innovations
dissipate after 6-12 months. He asks if teachers have as much autonomy
as heads. Uniform has zero effect; homework has zero impact in primary
school, which doesnt mean get rid of it, but we need to get it right. Good
homework reinforces what they have already learnt; project work is not
very productive. TV is a negative impact as it stops people doing more
productive things. Co-curricular activities help make school inviting places.
Streaming doesnt make a difference, but if it is in place dont waste time
dismantling it. Most absurd thing is that we block children according to
their age. Too much emphasis on children being passive, we need more

peer to peer learning. Schools are awash with data, but most schools dont
make best use of tests. The phrase, do your best is not good enough.
Too much talking-children dont come to school to watch us work, so let
children talk more.

Tony Little, Head of Eton: Programme asks why Eton is so successful,


and can its methods be replicated. Importance of academic continuity and
history, which gives one perspective. Education develops self worth, and
creates good citizens. Importance of boys being independently minded.
No bells, so obliges boys to be organised, and on time. Importance of
believing they can make a difference. Rigorous selection; boys are worked
hard. Great education is about more than grades. Young people learn
more outside the classroom, and they learn more from each other. We
over examine/over spoon; He would scrap most exams up to A level.
OFSTED measures schools in a particular way, but doesnt measure
everything. What interests him is the world of neuroscience, and how it
applies to education. A besetting problem of the UK is that we
underestimate what young people can do.
Daisy Christodoulou, teacher and writer, author of Seven Myths of
Education Programme looks at the old debate between knowing facts and
knowing how to locate facts. It discusses why she thinks a generation of
school children are being let down by discovery learning, which places
emphasis on students finding out for themselves. It's the opposite of
traditional 'chalk and talk'. But have classrooms already moved too far
towards skills and group work, in the interest of pleasing inspectors?
Based on her own time in classrooms, Daisy believes young people have
vast gaps in their knowledge and understanding, and that traditional factbased lessons would serve them better. Her experience as an English
teacher suggests that pupils have shaky knowledge because they lack the
basics. Pupil need frequent practice, to learning facts, rather than
necessarily spending time discussing. She claims that a schema of facts
is absolutely essential to help develop higher order skills. She quotes
Herbert Simons views on expertise. She argues against the notion that
the acquisition and application of skills is generic, arguing instead that
they are knowledge specific. Learning is a change in long term memory.
She also stresses the importance of cultural literacy (qv- Ed Hirsch)

Paul Howard Jones -psychologist specialising in education and


neuroscience, explains why a better understanding of what makes games
so compelling could lead to more effective teaching. He examines the

magnetic power of computer games, and the way they can produce
improvement in learning, attention span. We see an increase in mid-brain
dopamine, rapid schedule of rewards. Rewards are uncertain, in that
they rely on element of chance, which increases engagement. All
endeavours have aspect of risk.
Research suggests that combining a reward with an element of risk-taking
can increase the brain's appetite for learning and success. The
programme looks at Zondle, which aims to create, play and share games
to support teaching, learning and assessment in any subject, any level,
any language, anywhere. He discusses neural feedback, and creativity,
citing examples of Paul also discusses research into sleep, memory, and
transcranial electrical stimulation - putting a low voltage across the scalp and the impact these things have on our ability to learn.
( note Professor Charles Hulme argues that there are problems trying to
link neuroscience and education; its a long way from what teachers do in
the classroom. Cognitive enhancing drugs are used to enhance work rate.
Education needs to wake up and look at the implications of
neuroscience. )

Professor Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at


Newcastle University, Programme looks at Mitras pioneering Hole-inthe-Wall experiment, and discusses how he believes when young people
are given the right tools and encouragement, their innate sense of wonder
can allow them to learn almost anything from one another. He believes
the days of traditional schooling where teachers stand at the front, and
facts are taught and recalled, are numbered.
In 2013 his TED wish to build a "School in the Cloud" won him the first
$1m TED Prize. Since then, he and his team have gone on to open five
learning in the cloud labs in schools in India and in the North East of
England.
Professor Mitra's Hole-in-the-Wall experiment, whereby computers
connected to the internet were placed in the walls of Indian slums, has
evolved into a concept called a Self-Organised Learning Environment
(SOLE). He showed how groups of children with minimal supervision can
teach themselves, and how a team of retired teachers, or Grannies, use
webcams to provide support and encouragement during the SOLE session.
The grannies offer encouragement and this helped improve results, eg
children were able to demonstrate significant improvement on their
learning of complex genetics. He claims that teaching is still rooted in old

traditions that are increasingly irrelevant. He suggests we dont need to


TEACH spelling, times tables, they should be shown how to LEARN these,
using assisted technology. We should teach children how to DISCERN
information, how to judge information. I can find out information when I
need it. He feels children need to be encouraged to find out information,
and share information, even in exams. People need to start asking
questions, and we need to ask different questions. We need to use large
scale screens, not little screens, to avoid children accessing inappropriate
sites. The entire interconnectedness of internet makes SOLE possible.
Taking the analogy of old coach and horse, the passengers became the
drivers and now we are looking at driverless cars.

Sal Khan Sal Khan worked as a hedge-fund analyst before he set up the
Khan Academy, almost by accident, when his cousin in another city
needed help with her maths homework. Since then, his online video
lessons have been watched half a billion times, and he's been described
by Bill Gates as 'the world's favourite teacher'. Sal Khan believes lesson
time in school could be spent more effectively if the explanation of new
ideas is done at home, with students watching video lectures, in a process
known as 'flipped learning'.
He argues that pupils should have the freedom to move at their own pace,
only moving on when they have mastered a concept. He says this type of
learning would be done best in larger classes made up of students from
mixed age groups and abilities.

Jo Boaler, one time teacher, and now a Professor of Mathematics Jo


Boaler claims that a widespread belief in the existence of a 'maths brain'
is ruining pupils' chances of success in the subject. She argues that
anybody can be good with numbers, but unlike other subjects, we teach
the idea that some people are simply good or bad at mathematics. She
looks at the issue of Maths anxiety. Having researched the way maths is

taught in schools in the UK and in the US, Jo Boaler says pupils are too
often made to think that maths is a long list of rules and procedures to be
learned off by heart. She stresses that real mathematics is about
uncertainty; the study of patterns and creative problem solving. Her views
are expressed in such books as Whats Maths Got to Do With It?